Is Connectivism Relevant to Your Teaching Practice?

Is Connectivism relevant to our teaching practice?  This is a question posed in Group A’s Wiki, which took a stand FOR Connectivism.

Group A cited the following:  In their arcticle “The Adventures of Miranda in the Brave New World: Learning in a Web 2.0 Millenium,” Cameron Barnes and Beinda Tynan of the University of New England, Australia make the case for connectivism being a valid theoretical framework for today’s informational technological world. They argue that because connectivism sees the teacher’s role as a mediator of learning, rather than the deliverer of some fixed body of content/knowledge, it more closely matches the Web 2.0 students of today who want “to engage equally in description, explanation, understanding, reflection, and disclosure” (2007). At the college level, increasing non-attendance in lecture classes, higher attrition rates for under-prepared undergraduate students, greater public demand for accountability with regards to persistence in school and graduation skills all call for a shift in how we conceptualize how Web 2.0 students learn best. Barnes and Tynan describe Web 2.0 learners as people who have intertwined personal and educational lives, much prefer learning in a dynamic, active, cooperative, social environment, and are adept at using social technologies such as wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, interactive spaces such as Facebook, etc. They also point out that educators are lagging behind by continuing to use lecture formats for teacher-centered delivery of content or using passive Web-based learning modes that are already out of date. In order to attract and retain students, universities will need to provide opportunities for learners to engage with their teachers in a process of harnessing collective intelligence. Ana Maria Marhan of the Institute of Philosophy and Psychology of the Romanian Academy notes that learning is no longer a destination but a process of engaging in an ever changing landscape of information (2006). Access to that information is what is needed in order to tap into those sources of information, discern what information is important, and make decisions in this dynamic information environment.

Even though my group posed an argument against connectivism as a learning theory, I do believe there is truth in what was stated above.  Net generation students learn much differently than past generations did.  They were born into and continue to be surrounded by technology…. It comes second nature to them.  Therefore, I would agree that teacher’s need to change their role from lecturer and giver of knowledge to that of facilitator and mediator of learning.  My oldest son often skipped lecture classes in college because he deemed them worthless since he felt he could learn the same thing from the internet on his own.  Unfortunately, it seems that many high schools and higher education facilities are not keeping up with the demands of the net generation’s learning styles.  I was very sad and disappointed to hear from my own children (ages 21, 19, and 17) that they have never been taught how to identify credible sources on the internet; have never been asked to create any type of  multimedia project outside of PowerPoint; have never interacted collaboratively on blogs, wikis, vlogs, etc; and have had to essentially teach themselves how to navigate sites.  If we are not incorporating web 2.0 technology into our curriculum, we are doing our students a huge disservice.  Therefore, in my opinion, connectivism is extremely relevant to our teaching practice… and if we feel it’s not, then maybe it’s time to find a new profession.  We expect our doctors to keep current so they can give us the best care possible.  Why don’t we expect the same from our teachers?

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